*** Excerpt from The Player – Part One of the Rouge Passion Series by J.D. Chase coming 30th June 2014***
She dashed to the tube station only to find that overnight emergency work had closed the Piccadilly Line. A hastily written sign announced a replacement bus service but Isla knew how useless they could be.
One bus to replace several carriages . . . how in hell’s name is that supposed to work? Damn the fucking tube! I’ll have to walk a little and hail a passing cab.
The problem with that was that there weren’t too many cabs in Southgate, especially at seven-thirty in the morning and any there were would be snapped up quickly by other irate commuters. Another problem was that it would eat into her finances. That depressed her further and, to cap it off, she knew that when she got to work she’d have to deal with her arrogant new boss. God help him if he pisses me off today, she thought, in no mood for him, not least because of her raging hangover.
She began to walk along the High Street, keeping her eyes open for a cab. After five minutes, she was barely holding on to her patience. Not a single free cab had driven along the road and she was facing the fact that she’d most likely be late for work. She heard a loud V8 engine approaching and, under normal circumstances, she’d have loved to feel the vibrations of the throbbing engine pass through her. She wasn’t a huge car buff but she knew what she liked and she loved the sound of V8s. Today though, her hangover headache made her wish it would hurry up and pass.
It didn’t. In fact, it grew louder and seemed to remain stubbornly behind her, despite the open road in front. Her head threatened to explode when a cacophony of car horns blared. She looked over her shoulder to find a sleek black sedan with tinted windows crawling along the kerb a few feet behind her, undoubtedly the source of the V8 throb. She looked behind it to see a line of cars trapped by this one and the fast moving oncoming traffic, undoubtedly the source of the horns.
‘What the fuck?’ she whispered, never failing to be amazed at the weirdness that one witnessed in London. She whipped her head back and picked up her pace. But the car kept pace, the sound of its growling engine revving, despite its snail pace, almost drowning out the near continuous horn blasting from behind.
‘Either jump in or tell him you’re not interested, love,’ cracked some young wiseass who was walking towards her, making his friend laugh like a drain.
‘I can assure you it’s not connected to me, love,’ she spat at him as they neared. Great! Some wanker decides to play the arse and people think it’s a lover’s tiff, she added to herself.
Then it was the turn of his mate. ‘If you’ve finished for the night, darlin’ you should just let him know before he brings the whole area to a standstill.’
Then it hit her. They think I’m a prostitute! She would have given them a mouthful but for one thing; they’d now passed her and, for another; if they thought that then so might everyone else. Indignation bristled inside her and she found herself turning, marching up to the heavily tinted passenger window, and banging on it with the side of her clenched fist.
As soon as it began to descend, she vented her spleen at the tiny opening. ‘Right, you despicable little man, I am not a prostitute so fuck off. You’d be better off cruising around So— Oh shit!’
Once the window was halfway down, she could see Xander staring back at her with a bemused expression on his face. She could feel colour creeping into her cheeks and she realised her mouth was hanging wide open. She snapped it shut before continuing in a slightly less aggressive tone, ‘Just what are you playing at? You’re causing traffic chaos!’
He continued to look at her but all trace of humour had gone. Then he shrugged before turning his head back to look out of the windscreen. ‘I was going to offer you a lift to work so you wouldn’t be late, but if you’re going to throw insults and state the obvious, I think I’d prefer to drive in alone.’
Isla almost demanded to know why he hadn’t pulled up alongside, reclined the window and called to her like any rational human being. But she guessed he had his reasons . . . probably to annoy or deliberately wind her up, if yesterday’s performance was anything to go by. ‘Fine,’ she retorted instead. ‘I think I’d prefer to walk anyway.’
She straightened and felt the splattering of raindrops as she turned away.
‘Just get in the fucking car!’ he said, throwing the passenger door open.
Trapped between the prospect of getting soaked and the prospect of spending time with him in a confined space, she froze like a rabbit in the headlights until a rumble of thunder, accompanied by hailstones the size of Maltesers, sent her diving for cover in his car.
‘Hallefuckinglujah,’ he muttered as he wheelspun off. Then she heard the sound of doors locking.
‘Well, if you’d not acted like a kerb-crawling pervert, or given me some indication of who was driving and why they’d stopped the traffic, I might have got in much sooner.’
‘Might have?’ he mused, keeping his eyes on the road. ‘Are you always so stubborn or is that reserved for me?’
‘Are you always so arrogant and obnoxious, or is that reserved for me?’ she countered.
‘Touché,’ he muttered and she began to relax, thinking that at least he could take it as well as dish it out.
They drove for almost half an hour in complete silence and, whilst she was grateful for the opportunity to allow her headache to settle a little, she knew it wouldn’t be long before they reached the hotel and she didn’t want to begin work with an atmosphere between them. And there was an atmosphere, for her at least. She felt his presence, just as she had in the office, but magnified either by being so close to him in the confined space or by the knowledge that she couldn’t leave. So she thought she’d attempt to lighten things up by asking him about his car. People who drive cars like this, love them don’t they? She noticed the lion emblem on the steering wheel. It meant nothing to her except that it wasn’t a common sight in the UK.
‘Your car’s gorgeous. A V8 if I’m not mistaken, although I must confess, I have no idea what make or model it is but I know they aren’t ten a penny in the UK.’
He looked across at her, for rather longer than she felt safe, given the speed at which he was driving. ‘No, you’re not mistaken, it’s a Holden Commodore SS-V Redline imported from Australia. How in hell’s name did you know it was a V8?’
She shrugged, thinking that the answer was obvious. ‘Nothing else sounds like a V8,’ she said simply, as they pulled into the driveway of the hotel.
‘I never thought I’d hear those words fall from the lips of a woman,’ he declared as he pulled smoothly into the parking space nearest the entrance.
Her first thought was to berate him for his sexist remark but there was something about the way he said it, as if he were impressed. She accepted that the world of motorsport was a mostly male dominated affair but then she remembered how he’d deliberately goaded her the day before and resolved not to give him the satisfaction of provoking the reaction he’d expect.
‘Well, Xander, perhaps I’m no ordinary woman,’ she purred as she unfastened her seatbelt, shocked to hear her voice sounding so seductive.
He cut the engine and she heard the doors unlock. Before she could move, he turned to face her and pinned her with those eyes. ‘Well, Red, I’d be disappointed if you were.’
If she’d thought her voice sounded seductive, his sounded like pure sex. She was determined to shrug it off by getting out and walking away from him without a backward glance – to force him to follow her into the building. But she found couldn’t move. She couldn’t tear her eyes away from his. Her chest began to feel tight and she realised she wasn’t breathing. Her heart pounded so loudly that she was sure he’d hear it, but still she couldn’t seem to breathe in. She saw his eyebrow twitch. Oh yeah, that son of a bitch knows the effect he’s having on me!
That broke the spell and she thrust the car door open and strode into the hotel with as much self-respect as she could muster. She dashed through reception and closed the door to her office behind her. The connecting door to his office was open so she quickly shut that too. She had five minutes before she officially began work so she grabbed her make-up bag and set about making up her face in the tiny mirror she carried.
She was applying her mascara when the connecting door opened and he burst in, causing her to jump and wipe the brush along her eyebrow. ‘Dammit,’ she cursed, grabbing a tissue from a box on the desk and attempting to wipe it off before he saw it.
‘Whilst I wouldn’t want to disturb you from attempting to disguise your hangover face, I need you to follow me,’ he announced.
‘Hangover face? What gives you the right to cast aspersions about me? I have an annoyed face because the trains weren’t running this morning and . . . hold on, follow you where exactly?’
‘I’m not casting aspersions. I know you have a hangover although you won’t admit it. Nothing gets past me, Red. Something you’ll do well to remember. Now come on. Unlike you, I don’t have all day.’ He sauntered over to the other door and held it open, clearly expecting her to jump up and follow.
She bristled at his insistence of treating her like a child. She sat unmoving until he turned back to face her. The look on his face almost made her jump up and scoot over to him. But her stubborn nature took over. ‘I asked you where we were going and I expect an answer before I agree to anything. I think that’s not only fair but sensible, don’t you?’ she asked, crossing one leg over the other in an attempt to show him that she was prepared to stay exactly where she was unless he complied.
His eyes travelled slowly from the toe of her shiny red stiletto, up along her leg to the hem of her dress halfway up her thigh, where they lingered. Isla had to resist the temptation to pull her dress down. He made her feel naked. She made a mental note to wear longer dresses and skirts and then immediately erased it. I’ll be damned if I’ll take him into account when dressing. I’ll wear what the hell I like as long as it’s suitable for the office.
‘Can I help you with something?’ Sarcasm dripped off her tongue with each syllable.
He didn’t raise his eyes but said smugly, ‘Thank you for your assistance. Follow me. Now.’
Whoa! That wasn’t what I meant. And he knows it. He gave her a self-satisfied look before he strolled off down the corridor towards reception. ‘Fuck it. Fuck that man!’ she cursed aloud.
She heard his voice but it was muffled. Her jaw hit the desk when she worked out what he’d said. ‘Not yet, Red.’ At least that’s what it sounded like.
‘Arrogant, egotistical bastard,’ she murmured, very quietly.
*** Copyright J.D. Chase 2014 ***